Peru: state of emergency over extreme weather; protests over toxic spill

The government of Peru declared a state of emergency across 17 of the country's 25 regions as winter temperatures plunged to record lows over the weekend. At least 200 people have died in the worst cold spell in 46 years, with temperatures falling at night to well below freezing in highland areas. The most affected regions include Áncash, Apurímac, Arequipa, Cusco, Ayacucho, Huancavelica, Huánuco, Junín and Lima. (TeleSUR, BBC News, DPA, July 24) Extreme weather has resulted in social unrest over the past year in Peru, amid growing concerns about climate change in the Andes.

Peru's Environment Ministry also declared a 90-day emergency this month to clean up some 21,420 cubic meters of toxic mine tailings that spilled into the Rio Opamayo in Huancavelica region. The spill occurred June 26 when a containment dam at the Caudalosa Chica mine collapsed, unleashing cyanide-tinged waste water into the Opamayo, which flows into the Rio Urubamba, a major Amazon tributary. The residents of Aymaraes province held a 48-hour strike beginning July 7 in protest of the pollution of the river. The action prompted the National Water Authority to impose a $13 million fine on the mine operator a week later. (Peru21, July 19; Peruvian Times, Living in Peru, July 6)

Southern Andes Energy Inc. meanwhile announced plans to begin a uranium exploration program on its Macusani Plateau area properties (Puno region) in August. Southern Andes, a holding of the Canadian-based Solex Resources, is the largest land owner in the emerging Macusani Plateau uranium district. (MarketWire, July 15;